the art of negotiation-3.20.13
The wage gap has received renewed attention in recent months. The complex reasons for why it still exists, 50 years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, are not easily summed up in a forum such as this one. These reasons have been the subject of presidential debates, social media firestorms and scholarly research, and have been fueled by the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act.
The bottom line is, we know it exists. According to the American Association of University Women’s report “Graduating to a Wage Gap,” even when we take into consideration such factors as women taking a professional hiatus to raise children or the career choices they make, 30 percent of the wage gap is still unexplained. We know that encouraging girls to pursue careers in the much talked about STEM fields will narrow the gap. Sheryl Sandberg, whose new book, Lean In, provoked much debate even before it hit bookstores, encourages women to overcome internal barriers that stop them from aspiring to the highest level jobs.
But there is another factor that helps explain the wage gap: women are reluctant to negotiate salaries. The data are startling: according to a study by Carnegie Mellon University, women are 2.5 times more likely than men to feel apprehensive about negotiating salary. They may recognize the need for negotiation, but they fear (rightfully so, unfortunately) that they will be disliked for doing so. In fact, one study found that when men and women negotiated salaries using the same script, the men were much more likely to be seen in a favorable light than the women were. The result? While women are fierce negotiators on behalf of others, they are woefully reluctant to do so for themselves. And over the course of a lifetime, that can add up to $2 million in lost earnings for a college graduate.
This is an issue that we must address early on in a girl’s development if we are to effectively turn the tide. Girls are given messages from the time spent on the playground that they must be nice. And while there is nothing wrong with being nice, there is something we must do when niceness hurts the girl (and future woman) herself.
To that end, we are introducing negotiation skills training for our 5th and 6th grade students in the next academic year through a Carnegie Mellon program. We are also training the teachers in our Middle School so that they become even more keenly aware (and can intervene when necessary) of the ways in which girls interact with one another – and with them.
The program, called PROGRESS, will not, of course, address how to negotiate a first salary. But it will allow our girls to claim their voice in a given situation and confidently ask for what they need. In a decade or so, it will help them confidently ask for the salary they deserve.
Wednesday March, 20, 2013
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